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What is the State of the Union Address?

Last Tuesday, January 24th, President Obama delivered his State of the Union address. He focused on the economy, unemployment, education reform, American energy, and the end of the Iraq War. This address was the 91st State of the Union address in U.S. history. After the address, Indiana Governor, Mitch Daniels gave the Republican response.

The State of the Union address has a rich history and the formal basis for the address is in the Constitution. The first State of the Union address was delivered by George Washington in 1790. Back then it was called the Annual Message and was a formal speech given by the President to Congress. Today, the State of the Union address isn’t just a speech for Congress; it’s a way for the President to speak directly to the American people. Now, it is given in late January in the House Chamber, although the date and place have changed over the years. Since 1976, TV networks have provided a slot for the opposing party to respond immediately after the address.

The University Libraries have several resources on the State of the Union address including past speeches. Check out the following:
State of the union: presidential rhetoric from Woodrow Wilson to George W. Bush. Edited by Deborah Kalb, Gerhard Peters, & John T. Woolley. Washington D.C.: CQ Press, c2007.
University Library Reference J 81.4 S73 2007

The president’s speeches: beyond “going public.��? Matthew Eshbaugh-Soha. Boulder, Colo: Rienner, 2006.
University Library JK 585 E 74 2006

Addressing the state of the union: the evolution and impact of the president’s big speech. Donna R. Hoffman & Allison D. Howard. Boulder Colo: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2006.
University Library JK 587 H65 2006

The State of the Union messages of the Presidents, 1790-1966. Edited by Fred L. Israel. New York: Chelsea House, 1966.
University Library / J 81 C66

The view from the White House; a study of the Presidential State of the Union messages. Seymour H. Fersh. Washington: Public Affairs Press, 1961.
University Library / JK 587 F4

There is also online access to State of the Union addresses from 1992-2011.

If you have any questions about how to find additional resources on the State of the Union address, please contact our bibliographer for Political Science and Public Administration & Policy, Richard Irving. You can email him at rirving@albany.edu or give him a call at (518) 442-3698.

Blog post created by Kathryn Farrell